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12-30-05 Midwest Electric begins work on $3.1 million improvement project

By Shelley Grieshop

  Midwest Electric is working on a $3.1 million project to rebuild lines, replace poles and perform other maintenance-type services to help prevent future power outages in the local area.

An employee contracted by Midwest Electric in St. Marys trims tree branches near power lines in rural Coldwater during the January ice storm. Midwest, a customer-owned electric cooperative, is about to embark on a $3.1 million improvement plan.<br></br>

  "Most of the scheduled line rebuilds are for lines damaged in the (January) ice storm," explains Matt Berry, customer service manager for Midwest.

  Every four years Midwest creates a four-year work plan to upgrade equipment and prevent possible power interruptions; 2006 is the last year of the current $11 million plan. The 2006 projects are funded from prior year's profit margins, loans and about $1 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for lines damaged during the January ice storm.

  The deluge of rain that soon turned to ice led to numerous downed power lines at the beginning of the year, causing disruption of service to 9,000 of the co-op's 10,500 customers at the peak of the storm, Berry says. Many of those lines and poles will be checked for stability during the project that is performed by Midwest crews and contracted out to others.

  Forty miles of single-phase primary overhead wire and 13 miles of three-phase circuits will be rebuilt. This includes replacing old poles as well as replacing older copper wire with aluminum wire, which is stronger and lighter, Berry explains.  Line building will take place locally in Franklin Township in Mercer County and St. Marys, German, Moulton, Logan, Noble, Salem and Jackson townships in Auglaize County.

  Trees will be trimmed away from wires in a 288-mile stretch south and east of Fort Recovery, in Granville, Marion, Butler and Franklin townships in Mercer County, and St. Marys, German and Jackson townships in Auglaize County.

"Trees and branches that contact power lines are a primary cause of power outages and momentary blinking lights," says Paul Rogers, manager of engineering and operations at the St. Marys-based co-op.

  Other projects include a 10-megawatt substation currently being built in Sharpsburg and due for completion in March. It will replace a nearby metering point and serve about 300 customers in Mercer and Darke counties with capacity for future growth.

  Another substation under construction, the Lake 12-megawatt substation near Clover Four and Mercer-Auglaize County Line roads, will serve about 1,300 customers south of the lake. It is expected to be completed sometime in January.

  Also, as part of the ongoing plan, Midwest crews will test 2,000 residential electric meters for accuracy and will recalibrate them if necessary. All commercial meters also will be tested, Berry says.

  Besides Mercer, Auglaize and Darke counties, Midwest Electric also provides power for homes, farms and businesses in Allen, Van Wert, Putnam and Shelby counties.


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